In inter-war Britain forces are at work either trying to prevent or prepare for a second world war. Ben Clayton is more interested in sailing and fisherman's daughter Lucy. When an apparent accident kills his friend Ben is plunged into a world of intrigue, plots and counter-plots. As a sworn pacifist he doesn't even want to be involved with the production of warplanes like the Spitfire, but events force him to rethink his position. His beliefs aren't the only thing under threat, as his relationship with Lucy is threatened by the seductive Anna.
This novel is primarily a spy thriller but for me it was much enhanced by the historical element. I found the writing so evocative of the period. I could picture the people and their dress and it captured the tensions, including class divisions, of the time. When the story moved to Germany I found some of the narrative chilling and very tense, and I read on keen to get to the bottom of the tale. I found the author's note about certain facts that pertain to the story fascinating. They were facts I weren't aware of and often it's the stories like those that bring history to life for me. Sailing also plays an important part, and is a recurring and interesting theme in Mark's novels (no great surprise if you read his author biog on Amazon)
Ben is a very empathetic character. His life looks to be heading in exactly the direction he wanted, but he rapidly finds it all unraveling and unwittingly becomes a key to the course of the future. The strength of his beliefs has alienated his parents and he doesn't seem to fit within any particular class, and now he finds himself pulled from all angles. It's impossible not to be on his side. Lucy is also an attractive character and the polar opposite of slick, glamorous Anna. There are some very interesting dynamics among the various characters and while there is a lot going on it wasn't hard to follow the twists and turns, and unlike some spy stories I didn't find myself scratching my head trying to figure out what I had missed at the end.
This was a really enjoyable read and for me it cast a new light on the run up to World War II. The writing is fluid and allows the story to move on at a good pace. This was quite a departure from The Defector, by the same author, but Mark Chisnell's books are very welcome on my kindle.
Format: Kindle, review copy
My Rating: 4*